We all wear clothes. Therefore, by default, we all also wash, dry, iron, and fold our laundry on a regular basis. When calculating the cost of doing laundry, one must take into consideration a host of factors: detergent, water, energy, and wear and tear on our appliances, to name a few.
It is estimated that the average cost of washing and drying a load of laundry hovers near $2.00 per load.(source) The average American family washes between eight and ten loads of laundry every week. That means they doling out over $500 per year to keep their laundry clean. (source)
Although many believe their laundry costs are fixed, there are many really easy ways that you can save money on the cost of washing and drying clothing.
In fact, you could cut your costs in half, just by just making a few simple changes to the way you do laundry.
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To see me demonstrate four laundry money-saving strategies with practical examples, watch the video.
Tip #1: Wear Clothes Multiple Times Before Washing
Unless you are sweating profusely or working on an especially dirty task, it’s not necessary to wash clothing after every single wear. This is especially true of the dress you wear to church or out to dinner for just a couple of hours. Unless you spill something on the fabric or have a special reason that you need to wash more often, then try wearing an item two or three times before throwing it in the laundry pile.
Tip #2: Use Inexpensive Additives
One half cup of baking soda added at the beginning of the wash cycle will brighten whites and help kill bacteria. It also softens hard water, allowing you to reduce the amount of detergent you use.
Vinegar is a mild acid. Adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash acts as an inexpensive fabric softener, naturally softening clothes and helping maintain the color of fabrics.
To reduce soap scum and sticky residue, four times a year run an empty load through a complete wash cycle with two cups of white vinegar. It will help keep the interior and wash drum bright and spotless, reducing wear and tear on the unit and helping extend the efficiency of your machine.
Tip #3: Wash in Cold Water.
Although I know clothing comes with labels, suggesting the best method for laundering that garment, the truth is 90% of the fabrics that are used today are designed to effectively be washed in cold water.
Why is cold water important?
Because the cost of washing a load of laundry is somewhere between $1.50 and $2.50. Yet 90% of that cost is actually accrued in warming up the water in heating the water if you’re using hot water or warm water to wash your clothing. (source)
So you substantially and immediately cut down the cost of actually washing that load of clothes if you will wash in cold water.
You’ll save an average of $60 a year by simply switching to washing in cold water.
Tip #4: Use Less Detergent
Truthfully, the agitator in your washer does most of the heavy-duty cleaning work, not the laundry soap. Alarmingly, using an excess of detergent can also leave a residue on clothing, making colors less vibrant. Finally, you’ll risk gumming up your machine with soap residue, reducing the lifespan of your machine.
No matter what kind of detergent you are using, you’ll instantly save money when you use less of it. Manufacturers of cleaning supplies urge us to use two to three times the actual amount you need to use.
Although the front of the box, bottle, or bag may brag about the number of loads which can be washed with their product, often what you see advertised is not truthful.
For instance, Wind Fresh, found at SAMS club, comes in a thirty-five pound bucket and costs an average of $18. The front of the container states that the product will wash 215 wash loads per bucket. However, that number is based on a medium-sized load, which equates to using six tablespoons per load.
If washing large loads are more your style (and they should be), you’ll be using a full eight tablespoons of detergent and that seemingly huge, never-ending tub of detergent will only last for 161 loads. That’s 25% less than what was advertised on the container!
Finally, if you believe that “more is better” and fill the provided scoop all the way to the top, you’ll be throwing a full ten tablespoons on top of every load of clothing. Thus, reducing that bucket’s washing capacity all the way down to 139 loads or nearly 50% less than what was advertised prominently in large font on the front of the bucket.
How much detergent do you really need to use?
According to my research, here’s how much detergent actually needs to be used. With an older top Load Washer, and an older top loading washer, you need to use two or three tablespoons of detergent.
If you have a newer, energy efficient, front loader, you only need two tablespoons of detergent.
If you use two tablespoons per load, all of a sudden that same 35 pound bucket is going to last for 645 loads! Remember, it’s the same laundry detergent that the manufacturer told you would only last for 215 loads.
Try Less Expensive Detergent
Name brand detergent manufactures have not cornered the market on clean. We have used the SAMS brand of detergent for years and been very happy with the quality and cleaning power.
Before spending big bucks, read reviews of other brands and give one a try.
If you’re really dedicated to your brand, look for coupons, watch for sales, and be sure to follow your brand on social media. That’s where you’ll find the latest information on deals that they offer to faithful customers.
Tip #6 Wash Late at Night
Some utility companies reduce the hourly rate of electricity when you use it off peak hours. While it may cost you a premium to wash at mid-day, late night or early morning hours will score you the lowest price per kilowatt hour.
Check with your utility company to see if they offer an hourly electric rate program.
Tip # 7 wash full loads
We often put just a few things into the washing machine, washing small or medium sized loads, and think it’s just not going to make a difference as far as cost is concerned. Yet, it does.
The difference between washing two small loads as opposed to putting all of those items together into one large load means that you’re going to save between 25 and 50% per load.
What does that look like when we extrapolate these figures throughout the course of a year? It means that you’re going to wind up saving over $60 in twelve months, simply by making certain that when you load up the washing machine, you’re washing full loads.
Tip #7: Clean the Lint Trap
After every load, clean out the lint trap. It takes literally seconds to do this. Making it one of the quickest ways to ensure your dryer will work more efficiently and take less time to dry clothing.
If you are super thrifty, save the lint and use it in making homemade fire starters for the fireplace or backyard fire pit.
Tip #8: Vacuum the Laundry Vent
The vent in your home dryer should be vacuumed once or twice a year. This differs from the lint trap and is a little more tricky to reach. However, it is also a critical spot where debris and lint from the dryer can pile up, causing your dryer to work harder.
More importantly, it’s also the main source of dryer fires, because of the combustible nature of the accumulated lint, dirt, and dust.
The vent is the long tube behind the dryer, which allows the exhaust to vent to the exterior or your home. Most are metal, although some are constructed of plastic. Home Depot offers this easy-to-follow tutorial on how to properly clean a dryer vent at home.
Tip #9: Don’t let the dryer cool off
Dryers use heat to cut drying time and reduce creases and wrinkles. Use this feature to your advantage. If your dryer comes with a setting which senses dryness, use it. This will shut the unit off once the clothing has reached optimal dryness.
Alternately, after you have filled the dryer with an average load of laundry, set a timer, opening the door to check for dryness every ten or fifteen minutes. Remove the laundry from the dryer before the “cool down” cycle begins. Before the dryer cools, immediately put the next wet load into the unit and hit “dry”. It will take less time to dry the second load, because the dryer is already nice and warm inside.
As you are drying a load, make a note of how long it takes to adequately dry clothing. It takes an average of 30-45 for most dryers to fully dry a load of laundry. However, if you find that your clothing is adequately dry by 23 minutes into the cycle, check future loads at that same time. Chances are, the final seven minutes of the drying cycle are dedicated to “cooling down” the laundry, which isn’t necessary and wastes energy.
Tip #10 Line Dry Clothing
Drop laundry costs like a rock by ditching the dryer altogether. Simply, line dry your laundry. Now I know for some of you this seems like something your grandmother did. And that’s because well, your grandmother did do it.
But I do it too because it makes good sense. It’s economical, and I love the way that laundry smells when it has been line dried.
What economical difference does this make?
The cost of drying a load of laundry in a standard dryer be that gas or electric is going to average between 50 and 75 cents a load. Since the average family of four in America does between eight and ten loads weekly, you could lower your electric costs and save well over $150 a year on your bills just by drying items on a line.
No Clothesline? Do this, instead
If you don’t have laundry lines in your backyard like I do, you actually can hang lines in your home. If you have a utility room with open rafters, it is easy to hang some laundry lines from the rafters to make certain that you can still line dry your laundry and you’re just doing it inside.
During cold weather, this allows you to air dry clothes, saving money in the winter months.
Dry items over the shower curtain rod
Just grab regular hangers hang lightweight items from the hangers and then take the hangers and hang them across the shower bar in your bathroom. Just make sure that there’s enough space in between the items so that air can flow in there and the items will dry effectively and efficiently.
Use a Dryer Rack
The next thing that you can do is get an old-fashioned drying rack. They’re readily available at church rummage sales or thrift stores. I got a wooden one at a thrift store for about $5 last week.
When you’re not using it, the unit folds very compactly and just goes right against the wall.
More Clothesline Tips
If you want your line dried laundry smell really really good, get a spray bottle, fill it with water and then add just a few drops of an essential oil. I like lavender. Give clothing a light spritz while it is still damp and it will make smell really fantastic after it has dried on the line.
One of the primary problems that most people see with line drying is the fact that towels do tend to turn out a little stiff and scratchy. Now, there are a couple of options here. The first, is to tell your kids (especially if they’re teens) that stiff towels actually are great at exfoliating skin.
Alternately, you can just throw stiff towels in the dryer for about 10 minutes. They will soften it up just as though you had dried them in the dryer, but you’ve not had all the expense of drying them completely in the dryer.
Be sure to set a timer to remove them from the dryer in ten minutes or you’ll forget them and wind up spending more on energy costs that you intended.
How do you save on laundry costs?
There you have it for quick and easy ways that you can change your behavior when it comes to doing laundry. It won’t cost you a penny to implement these changes and you will bank $300 a year.
How do you cut laundry costs? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.